The Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC) is held annually in Michigan. RoboJackets has an IGVC subteam, which competes in this competition each year. IGVC involves creating an autonomous ground vehicle that traverses an outdoor obstacle course. This course is on a grass field, with lines and traffic barrels that the robot must avoid while navigating toward a GPS waypoint. The IGVC team designs and builds the entire mechanical and electrical subsystems in Georgia Tech’s Student Competition Center.
I joined the IGVC subteam during my first few weeks in college as part of the software team. IGVC was my very first experience with robotics, and it was extremely difficult for me to overcome the initial learning curve of the world of robotics. Prior to starting my degree at Georgia Tech, I had never programmed. I had never even thought about working with robots. I joined IGVC in college because the challenge of creating an autonomous robot for outdoor navigation seemed like an interesting problem, even though I had little to no skills that could help me contribute.
In my first semester, I compiled my first C++ program and by the end of my second semester, I wrote my first ROS node. Later, I helped write software for calibrating the cameras, and implementing a basic probabilistic global mapping node. By the time I finished my 3rd year at Georgia Tech, I was project manager for the IGVC team for the Fall 2017 semester, leading the mechanical, electrical, and software subteams in building one of the most successful robots the team has sent to competition.
Our technical design report can be found here: 2018 Design Report IGVC
Jessi, our 2018 submission to IGVC.
Jessi placed 2nd in the design competition, and qualified to run on the basic course for the first time in over 5 years.
Working with IGVC, I gained hands-on experience with robotics and learned how brutal it can be to take a theory or concept and actually implement it on a physical platform. During my first IGVC competition in 2016, our robot seemed ready to compete after seeing it navigate autonomously around barrels and lines. At competition, a cable was accidentally dropped onto one of the lead-acid battery leads. This shorted several cables and sensors, and rendered the vehicle completely immobile. I now truly appreciate how many functional and robust components are required to just simply make a robot move, and the importance of incorporating fail-safes early in the design process.